Copycat movies

Ben Arnold
Yahoo UK Movies Features
White House Down vs. Olympus Has Fallen (Credit: Rex)

'Olympus Has Fallen' is not alone. In a couple of months, the White House-based security breach thriller will be joined by another White House-based security breach thriller called 'White House Down'. The former is directed by 'Training Day's Antoine Fuqua and features Aaron Eckhart as the Pres and Gerard Butler as the only man who can save him, damnit. The latter, meanwhile, from disaster film veteran Roland Emmerich, features Jamie Foxx as the leader of the free world, and Channing Tatum as the only man who can save him. Damnit.

Though it's remarkable that this sort of thing keeps happening in Hollywood, keeps happening it does. There are plenty of examples of movies tackling the same subjects brought out within months of each other.

Let battle commence...

[Related story: Want a reaction? Kill the dog]
[Related story: First look: White House Down trailer]

Deep Impact Vs. Armageddon
'Deep Impact' and 'Armageddon' were released three months apart, with the former helmed by respected TV director Mimi Leder, and the latter by the baron of bombast himself, Michael Bay. The plots were hugely similar, incorporating a team being charged with tackling a meteor that threatens the Earth with extinction. Bay's was, predictably, a macho cornball the size of the meteor he sought to destroy, with swaggering performances from Willis, Affleck and, oddly, Buscemi. But nonetheless it turned in over $550 million. 'Deep Impact' cost not much more that half the amount of 'Armageddon', and with a female star (Tea Leoni, with support from Robert Duvall and Morgan Freeman) it did pretty well too, coining nearly $350 million. There was clearly room for both.

Dante's Peak Vs. Volcano
One was February, 1997 (Dante), one was April 1997 (Volcano). Both were about volcanos. In the red corner for 'Dante's Peak' was Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton, facing off against Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche for 'Volcano' in the blue corner. One had the ambition – ‘Volcano’, which sought to destroy the entire city of Los Angeles – while the other concerns the more likely scenario of a once-dormant volcano threatening a small town. Strangely, the down-home tale cost more at $116 million, but won the box office battle, hauling in $178 million to 'Volcano's $122 million, though neither, ahem, set the world alight. 'Dante's Peak' was largely thought to be the better film, however.

A Bug's Life Vs. Antz
This clash of animation titans Dreamworks and Pixar happened in 1998, scarcely a month apart, both films insect-based, and both with an all-star voice cast. Dreamworks' 'Antz' boasted Woody Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Anne Bancroft, Christopher Walken, Gene Hackman and Sylvester Stallone, while Pixar's 'A Bug's Life' featured the less impressive ensemble Kevin Spacey, Julia Louise-Dreyfus, David Hyde Pierce and Dave Foley. Both were critically lauded, but Pixar made more cash, raking in $163 million, showing that even with the best voice-cast, you're not beating Disney without a fight. Plus the two plots were easily different enough to merit their own existence.

The Truman Show Vs. EdTV
Seizing upon the ethics of reality television early, Peter Weir's excellent 'The Truman Show' emerged mid-1998 and broached the subject with skill and poise, with Jim Carrey playing the title character, born into a reality show watched the world over. It was nominated for three Oscars. 'EdTV', released in March the following year had it all to do, but the odds were not stacked in its favour. The plots differed in that Matthew McConaughey played a man who consented to being the centre of a reality show, the downsides soon becoming apparent. It proved a rare bomb for director Ron Howard, who emerged with a bloody nose, and losses of over $40 million.

Tombstone Vs. Wyatt Earp
It was the battle of the Earps. Lawrence Kasdan, writer of 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' and 'The Empire Strikes Back', took on 'Rambo: First Blood Part II' helmsman George P. Cosmatos in the Wild West. Both films featured the moustachioed lawman heavily, Kurt Russell playing him in 'Tombstone' and Kevin Costner in 'Wyatt Earp'. 'Tombstone' was a straight-up romp of guns and galloping tuberculosis, with Val Kilmer turning in a dazzling performance as the sickly booze hound Doc Holiday. Sadly, Kasdan's treatment was flabby, over-sincere, and at 191 minutes, a buttock-paralysing marathon. No one liked it, and it flopped horrifically, making $25 million on a $63 million production budget. Ouch.

The Illusionist Vs. The Prestige
These European-set, magic-based period pieces bore something of a resemblance, and were debuted in September and October of 2006. Both featured lavish sets, life-or-death rivalries and seemingly supernatural intrigue. Ed Norton, Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel were trumped somewhat cast-wise in 'The Illusionist' by Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Andy Serkis and an unexpected turn by David Bowie in Christopher Nolan's 'The Prestige', which also scored Academy Award nominations for its art direction and cinematography. It also made more money, turning in $109 million, perhaps in part because of Nolan's successful excursion directing 'Batman Begins' only the year before, increasing his visibility among the movie-going public.

Mission To Mars Vs. Red Planet
Mars was the scene of a rather ugly salvo between Warner Bros and Touchstone Pictures in 2000. It both began and ended South Africa-born director Anthony Hoffman's career, in fact. Hoffman helmed 'Red Planet' with Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tom Sizemore and Terence Stamp, following Brian De Palma's 'Mission To Mars' a few months earlier. Staff on the film must have been either emboldened or terrified after De Palma's film, which starred the usually solid Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins and Don Cheadle, was panned horribly by critics, making just $10 million over its vast $100 million production budget. But 'Red Planet' was also dreadful, losing a sickening $50 million. There were no real winners here, least of all Hoffman, who did not direct another film in Hollywood.

Top Gun Vs. Iron Eagle
It's 1986. It's all about fast planes, dog fights and hotshot pilots who don't do things by the book. Mavericks, you might call them. Well, in 'Top Gun', anyway. One would be forgiven for thinking that 'Iron Eagle' was a kind of bargain basement 'Top Gun', but in fact it cost $3 million more than the Tony Scott/Simpson and Bruckheimer smash. But as pumped and sweaty as 'Top Gun' was, it's plot – though wafer thin – was infinitely more sturdy than that of 'Iron Eagle', which involved a veteran pilot shot down over a cartoonishly evil fictional Arab state and his son's frankly implausible plan to save him by borrowing an F-16. OK, so 'Top Gun' made $357 million (nearly $900 million in today's money), but 'Iron Eagle' spawned three sequels. So have that, Tom Cruise.

Leviathan Vs. The Abyss
For reasons we may never understand, underwater exploration horror was big in 1989 (there was also 'DeepStar Six', 'The Evil Below' and 'The Rift' released the same year). Leviathan, again directed by George P. Cosmatos (we can see a pattern developing here), starred Peter 'Robocop' Weller and was basically 'The Thing' translated to a deep sea setting. Meanwhile, James Cameron, fresh from 'Aliens', also decided underwater was the way to go, something he's developed a passion for in real life since. It was a significantly better film, and trounced all of its underwater rivals convincingly. It was a special effects masterpiece too, the 75 second long scene where the 'pseudopod' creature mimics the facial expressions of Ed Harris's Bud and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's Lindsey taking six months to make. Not surprisingly, the commercial end was an issue. It made $90 million, but cost $70 million before marketing and distribution.